Of Hooves, Paws and the Play of Forms

A ongoing question I ask myself: “Am I losing myself in everyday events and circumstances? Am I too immersed, too bound to the “forms” that never cease to occupy the space of my existence?” When situations hook me into emotional experiences that narrow my perspective and overwhelm my available resources, I know the balance is off. Looking for an appropriate lens to moderate this experience, I recently came across an idea from the Lubavitcher Rebbe that illuminated this crucial area of living for me.

Interestingly, the insight does not come from the mystical dimensions of which he was a great master, but from the mundane arena of kosher animals. Kosher animals are identified by 2 signs: They Chew their cud and they have completely split hooves.

In response to my ongoing dilemma of balancing engagement in the world with presence of being, both of these “kosher” qualities are relevant, but here I will focus on the hooves.  An animal with no hoof, with a paw (like a dog) for example, gives the beast direct, intimate and constant contact with the ground. A “paw like” existence is to completely immerse oneself in the world and its constantly changing forms. There is no space, no separation between form and being, which can result in an experience of feeling lost and disoriented.

On the other hand, animals with a complete hoof (like a donkey), or even a partially split hoof (like a camel), indicate that there is too much separation, too much distance between the being and the forms it interacts with. This divide prevents the individual form engaging meaningfully with the content of his or her life. Human beings have the capacity to transform their environment and a superficial, inauthentic engagement in this process (symbolized by the division of a hoof) prevents this from happening.

The balance to be sought; Maintain a hoof (a separation between form and being) and yet, have that separation be completelysplit, allowing for significant and meaningful interaction with the world of form.  If you find that you are losing yourself in life’s situations or alternatively, that your contact with the world is superficial and meaningless, you may want to question how “kosher” it is. 

Here are a few suggestions to maintain the balance:

  1. Keep yourself rooted in being. Start and end your day with a period of prayer, mindfulness meditation or journal reflection.
  2. Set your phone alarm several times a day and when it goes off, take 3-4 conscious breaths. Just notice that you are breathing….in and then out. This reconnects you with being, and helps you contact the present moment experience.
  3. Have regular conversations with a trusted mentor, friend or coach. Check in to realign your actions with your values. This ensures that you are authentically engaged with your daily life and not just “going through the motions”.
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